Law school hosts federal appeals court

JUDICIAL DISCUSSION: Judges William C. Canby Jr., Richard Clifton and Michael Daly Hawkins, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, address an audience in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law following oral arguments on Tuesday. A panel of the federal court annually visits the Great Hall, giving students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public an opportunity to listen to oral arguments in real cases. (Photo courtesy of David Sanders)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held a special sitting Tuesday morning at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, giving law students the opportunity to see the court in action.

Students and teachers from the law school heard oral arguments for three cases as they were presented to the court’s three-judge panel.

Holding special sittings at law schools is a common practice for the court, and it’s meant to benefit students and faculty, Assistant Circuit Executive David Madden said.

“[The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals] sits in Arizona periodically and usually at one or both of the law schools,” Madden said, referring to the law schools at ASU and UA.

The last time the court visited ASU was in October 2009. Paul Berman, dean and professor at ASU’s law school, said each year the school invites the Arizona Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a tribal court to hear cases at the school.

One of the cases heard at the special sitting involved a security consultant for Canadian singer Celine Dion.

Skokos v. Department of Homeland Security involved Canadian citizen Nikolaos Skokos, who was challenging the denial of his petition for migrant worker under the classification of “Alien of Extraordinary Ability.”

In United States v. Soderman, the defendant, Charles Soderman, appealed his jury conviction of attempting to travel out of the country for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

Each case was given about 30 minutes. Within this time the appellant, or person who files the appeal, makes the first statement, and the appellee, or respondent, follows. To close, the appellee makes a rebuttal.

The time to reach a judgment varies for different cases, Madden said, adding it could take anywhere from a month to more than a year. It is given to the two parties in the form of a written statement known as an opinion.

Once the oral arguments are finished, students, faculty and staff were allowed to ask the judges questions.

Madden said this question-and-answer segment is done only for special sittings at law schools for learning purposes.

“Seeing actual lawyers on their feet in actual cases, and then discussing the process with the judges afterwards is an invaluable experience for students,” Berman said.

First-year law student Brett Stavin was one of the many students in attendance.

“[The oral arguments] were pretty interesting,” Stavin said. “I’m glad I saw it. I think the lawyers in [United States v. Soderma] did very well.”

The Sandra Day O’ Connor College of Law encourages its students to attend these court events in order to bridge the gap between law school and law practice, Berman said.

Berman believes that experiences like these will help shape student’s future legal careers.

Reach the reporter at tiffany.ngo@asu.edu